Radio Station WII-FM
Direct Response Marketing (DRM) is an intensely personal medium. The more you can do to make your customers feel that you’re speaking only to them, the better. Why? Because it all boils down to the principle known as WIIFM, which stands What’s In It For Me? I call it WII-FM-the radio station everybody’s in tune with most of the time. If you really want to communicate with your customers, that’s where you need to broadcast from. Any communication you attempt with your customers has to strive to answer that question: What’s In It For Me?
You can’t expect your prospects to figure that out all by themselves; you’ve got to be direct about it. Tell them exactly what’s in it for them. In order to succeed, you have to internalize this principle, understanding and appreciating it on an almost instinctual level. It’s all about salesmanship. Think of the very best sales people that you know of. These people strive to speak your language, not theirs. It’s not about what they want from you; it’s about what they can offer you. That’s their focus-and that’s where your focus needs to be. Your communications have to radiate honesty and integrity. A kind of friendship is involved here. You’re striving to build relationships, to get personal with people.
You’ll see this focus everywhere when you study the best DRM sales copy. DRM is simply salesmanship multiplied, through whatever medium you choose: direct mail, Internet, radio, or TV. It does a great job of selling your prospects on the main benefit of your product by making them a specific offer. What’s a offer? Ultimately, it’s all the things you’re promising to give somebody in exchange for the money you’re asking for.
DRM is the also the only type of advertising that’s 100% accountable-which means that you can monitor every dollar you spend. Almost invariably, you can tell what’s working and what’s not, because you’re making people offers that ask them to take specific actions that can be tracked and monitored. That way, you always know where you stand. With other forms of advertising, you just throw it out there and keep throwing it out there, never really knowing for sure if it’s working. With DRM, you have total control.
But again, it is a personal medium, and it requires a high level of salesmanship, which must be based on an intimate awareness of the person you’re trying to reach. Who are they? What are they about? What are they looking for? What do they really want? That’s why when you write a direct marketing sales piece, it needs to be written to a specific person, the person that your research tells you is typical of your marketplace. You want the reader to feel you’re communicating only with them, so you use the word “you” a lot. You’re trying to establish a long-term relationship, not trying to make things too homogenized and bland. In a good direct marketing letter, there’s a realness that goes along with this humanity you’re trying to get across.
And by the way: don’t be afraid to tell your new friend your personal story. If I had to pick the one marketing strategy that’s made us more money for me than any other, it would be the fact that since Day One, I’ve been honestly telling prospects my story. I’ve tried to get personal with them by telling them things about me and my company they can identify with, things that bond us together. These are common experiences, things we know that they’ve experienced or may experience in relation to the kinds of products and services that we sell. That’s part of the emotional element of DRM.
Even when we prepare to enter a new business we don’t know much about, we go in with a deep understanding of this principle of developing relationships with people, and having an intimate knowledge of who we’re selling to so that we can communicate with them on a personal level. That way, we can make them feel special. So while in some ways we might feel like we’re groping in a dark room looking for a light switch, we’re not letting that stop us. We’re stepping out in faith; we’re excited.
We know how to excite other people about our products, too. If you own a brick-and-mortar location, one way to do so is to have a lot of different events that people can attend, at least one a month. Now, these events might be very small, but they bring people together to make them feel special. Invite all your customers, knowing that very few will actually attend. Even if they don’t, they’ll still feel special because they’ve been invited; and those who do show up will be treated extra-special. Either way, you’re doing this to get inside their heads and their hearts.
The ultimate success of any new business is based on how well you get to know your target audience. Even if you already know them pretty well, over time your understanding will grow, and you can look forward to learning so much about them that your understanding of them becomes instinctual. This allows you communicate with them much more effectively.
All this may sound like common sense… and of course it is. A lot of what you’re going to hear from me in this and any other article is common sense, and yet most people in DRM just aren’t putting it into action. This is sad, because realizing that you’re advertising to just one person, and then getting to know them intimately, is the foundation of any DRM campaign. You see people tripping over this concept constantly, using stilted language in their offers that makes it sound like they’re talking to everyone at once. You can’t appeal to everyone, and trying to do so is a mistake! You’ve got to find one representative person and talk to them, like you’d talk to your best buddy on the phone.
Some people argue that, hey, they have a product everyone needs-for example, underwear or toilet paper. Okay, fine, everyone is a prospect for toilet paper; that much is true. But that doesn’t mean you should try to appeal to everyone; because again, that simply doesn’t work. To repeat: with DRM, you have to make it sound like you’re advertising to just one person and no one else.
Now, the best way to sell anything is face-to-face. When you do that, you can get in front of someone and make a case for why they need to buy your product, right there, right now. That’s how door-to-door salesmen used to do it; even if you don’t often see people selling vacuum cleaners and Fuller brushes that way anymore, it’s still a great example. They knock on your door, you answer, and they give you a quick spiel-because you’re probably getting ready to slam the door on them. They know they’ve got seconds to make a first impression, to get you not to close the door at the very least. If they can get past that initial resistance, they can make their sales presentation. So maybe you invite them into your house, and they spend however long it takes to make the presentation. They’re hoping you ask some questions; and if all goes right, they end up walking away with a sale.
They do that all day long to get a lot of noes and a few yeses. If they’re good at it, they make enough money to support themselves and their families. And that’s how you’ve got to approach this, even if door-to-door isn’t your style. Actually, direct response is better, because you can reach out and touch many people all at once.
Let’s say you’re mailing a DRM piece to just one prospect. When they go to their mailbox, they pull out a bunch of stuff: bills, Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes, your letter and a few like it, and some sales papers. They take the mail into the house and starting going through it over the trash can, tossing the stuff they don’t want and putting aside the stuff they think they should pay attention to. Then they get to your envelope. Well, what do they do? You have a second, at the most, to make an impression.
Let’s face it: they’re going to do one of two things. They’re either going to decide to trash your envelope because it’s not important to them… or something will catch their eye that makes them hesitate. There’s something about your envelope. Maybe it’s got some sales copy on it, or maybe they open it up and the headline on the sales letter catches their imagination and makes them want to read more, so they put it aside. Best-case scenario, they read it right then and there because it’s just that exciting to them.
Your envelope is just like a face-to-face salesperson. It has to get people to decide not to slam the door in its face-to decide to take the next step, and hear your entire sales pitch. If you can do that much, maybe they’ll look at your order form and decide to place an order. So when you’re selling by mail, you want to speak to your prospect as if you were standing there in their doorway or sitting at their kitchen table, trying to convince them to listen to you. Your sales copy needs to offer them a benefit that speaks directly to them.
Again, you achieve this by knowing your marketplace. You have to communicate with them in a way that they’ll understand. What benefits are they looking for? What’s this new relationship going to do for them? Once you determine that, sit down and write to them as if they’re the only person reading your letter, based on what you know they want and need. Since you can’t go out there and deliver the sales message in person tens of thousands of times, you’ve got to do your best to personalize it. If you can, use their name in the letter. Instead of “Dear friend,” or “Dear homeowner, ” it’s “Dear Jim,” or “Dear Jane.” There are computer programs that let you do this.
The art here is to make the person you’re communicating with seem special… because they are. Which brings us back to their favorite radio station, WII-FM, where the only song that’s ever playing is, “What’s In It for Me?” That cuts through to the heart of things, doesn’t it? People are busy. They’ve got lots of stuff going on, and they want to spend their money only on the things that are important to them, the items that, for one reason or another, provide them with what they consider true value. So closely examine their WIIFM equation; and if you can solve if, you’re well on your way to getting them to pay more attention to you than they would otherwise.
Everybody wants to feel special, you see-and these days, the trend is to make people feel less special, especially where huge corporations are concerned. In his autobiography, Made in America, Sam Walton pointed out that to compete with Walmart, all you have to do is offer great personal service. As he put it, the best he can do on that front is to have a greeter at the door saying “hello” to you as you walk in the store (and of course to keep people from stealing stuff on their way out). There’s a severe lack of personal service nowadays, to the point where you get put on hold for 20 minutes and there’s this message that comes on every 10 seconds that goes, “Your business is important to us. Please hold.”
Obviously, they don’t really care. People just don’t feel that special anymore. So when you do go out of your way to make people feel that way, then you automatically have a competitive advantage over everyone else in your market.
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